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A great visit to Thomaston. The Wilson's, The Bunel's and more.

POSTED March 01, 2017
BY Timothy W. Gaffney
Twitter: @TimothyGaffney

Thomaston: There were two games played at Thomaston High School on Tuesday night during the Berkshire League boys basketball tournament, neither of them really close, but while in one the best gyms in the area, it wasn’t the action on the floor that made me smile, it was the folks in “The Cave” who made my night.

Sure, Lewis Mills and Wamogo took care of the Golden Bears and Northwestern respectively, setting up the final right back at THS tonight in what might be the finishing touches for the Spartans who were clearly the best team on the court with apologies to our good friend, Gregg Hunt, the Warriors head coach.

Mills is long and I mean long. If you get by their initial defender, count on another big and stretchable body to follow.

They throw a double-edged sword at you on offense as well with a powerful inside game complimented by a three-point capability that makes them scary good.

Want to press? Okay, they’ll see your press and raise it a fast break bucket with a pass or two.

No, what I enjoyed about last night and most nights in doing what I do is seeing the hard -working people doing their best to make a team better or around the gym, support their team better.

Any trip to Golden Bear land starts with a visit with my main partner in crime, Mr. Rick Wilson who is in the throws on marathon sports assignments that usually end at Mohegan Sun the third week of March, followed by a disbelieving look at his desk after piling up far too many notes from the previous months.

Wilson is a pro’s-pro. Old school, take your own stats and take a bunch of them kind of guy. He, like I only get spoiled when we cover the UConn men or women and have stats handed to us every 15 minutes.

We are still waiting for our local AD’s to get on board with that system. Not sure we should hold our breath, though.

Nobody tells a story like Mr. Wilson. We are fortunate to have him with us as well.

Jonathan Wilson is a junior guard for the Golden Bears who we have seen grow up before us. I remember when he was the bat boy for the Torrington Twisters back when the bat was bigger than he was.

JW has developed into some kind of young man. He’s engaged in his sports, his studies, in Premier Soccer and even has his eye on the national political scene.

A three-sport athlete (yes, I love that) who also excels at soccer and baseball, JW is an extended member of the Gaffney family, the boy we never had.

Had not seen him play this year yet and I have to admit, I was rooting for one long three-pointer to find the bottom of the net, but it was not meant to be.

It’s okay. Watching the passion with which he plays the game with was good enough.

Can see this kid coaching something somewhere someday, but am confident that whatever he does, he will do himself, his parents and his town proud.

Speaking of parents, it would not be a night at the Bears gym without a high five from mom, Caroline as her husband and I made our way towards the hospitality room which featured some serious good food, my compliments to the chef.

We sports writers settle for just about anything but throw chicken, pasta, salad, meatballs, tortellini and the like at us and we are in heaven.

Looking forward to seeing Mrs. Wilson at this year’s Litchfield Hills Road Race in June as I partake in this grand (and crazy) event for the first time as a runner (???).

She will be long back and under her tent resting comfortably by the time I return (crawl, stumble) down West Street.

Good friends Steve Barlow, a fellow Torringtonian and Adam Baker were on hand from the Republican American along with photog Chris Massa.

These guys do a great job bringing these tournaments to life.

Seeing and talking with the above-mentioned coach Hunt is always terrific. Goes back to our days in the dugout talking about the Twisters at Fuessenich Park in Torrington.

Coach is as passionate as ever and very entertaining to watch as he implores his team on every play. Nobody can say this guy is not a master motivator of young men. One of the best out there.

Also, wanted to check in with the Bunel boys and on Tuesday, there were four of them on hand, starting with the leader, one Charles “Pinky” Bunel, a guy who is a legend in the Winsted area for his work with the youth of his community and devotion to his family.

The elder Bunel had all three of his boys on hand last night.

In the first game, Wamogo against Northwestern, his son Chris was working the court in stripes, keeping the game under control like he does.

Chris has worked hard to make himself one of the best young referee’s in the game and it shows because you don’t notice he is there.

On the Thomaston bench sat head coach AJ and his assistant Jim, a leading name in local golf over the past few years working with Suzy Whaley Golf when he’s not helping his brother get the best out of his team.

These are simply quality men.

AJ has his team back in the hunt after several years of hard knocks. One thing you can count on though, a Bunel coached team will always play hard and, as he did last night AJ will always thank you for coming to see his team play.

Class all the way.

In the second game, one of the referees was none other than Charley Harbach whom we did a story on last winter.

Under the small world category, turns out Mr. Harbach is my granddaughter Skyy’s Social Studies teacher at The Gilbert School in Winsted.

Skyy had made the connection when she saw a picture of her teacher in photo’s we were going over last time she came for a visit.

Saw Bears girls coach Bob McMahon and Billy Ryan as well, all good people who I wish I had more time to spend with.  

Wondering if we will see the Bears on their home court at Mohegan Sun later this month?

Don’t count them out!

Watching boy games attentively was former Torrington basketball standout Mia Barbieri who has taken a liking to wearing the stripes and blowing the whistle on the court.

Barbieri has become a referee over the past year and was there to watch the game, but more so to watch her peers do their job.

Look for a story on the former Raider in our premier issue of the Litchfield County Sports magazine in mid-April.

All in all, a great night out in the busy little gym known as “The Cave”.





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